LESSON PLAN: Looking at Impressionist Landscapes

16 Apr 2007

0701impresslandscapelp3_427x600_1This valuable lesson plan explains how to teach high-school students to draw landscapes.

by Erica Yonks

Green Trees 
9th grade student, 2006, colored pencil.

Grade Level: 9

Duration: three days

• To depict landscapes with the illusion of depth and space by properly laying out compositional elements in the foreground, middle ground, and background.
• To use concepts such as aerial perspective, overlapping shapes, and placing larger objects in the foreground to create the illusion of space.
• To use oil pastels to create texture and to fill in shapes in the composition of a rural landscape.
• To use art elements and principles of design to create the illusion of movement throughout the composition.

Fundamental Concepts of Perspective
1. What choices can an artist make to suggest movement and balance in a composition?
2. Which concepts of perspective can we use to create the illusion of space and depth?
3. How do objects and figures appear differently to the viewer when they are closer or farther in the distance?
4. How can oil pastels be used to create texture?

By the Beach
9th grade student, 2006, pastel.

• drawing paper
• oil pastels
• pencils
• image resources such as photographs of landscapes and images of Impressionist landscapes

Day 1
1. Show students images on the overhead projector (project the images on a whiteboard), and lay a selection of images on tables for students to view. Discuss the genres of the paintings. How did the artist design the compositions of the different paintings?
2. Draw a basic sketch over one of the images on a whiteboard so that students can see the placement of the painting’s large shapes. Next, block the projection so that students can see the basic sketch and layout of the shapes. Show students the sketch and the projection together again, and draw division lines to provide a visual separation of the foreground, middle ground, and background.
3. Conduct a question-and-answer session with students to ensure that they understand the concepts that have been presented:
    a. Which elements of art are evident in these images?
    b. Is there a distinct foreground, middle ground, and background in each painting?
    c. How does the artist further use perspective to create the illusion of depth and space?
    d. Explain to students that the purpose of their sketches is to lay out the composition of their landscapes in same way you have demonstrated with the projected image and sketch on the whiteboard. Be prepared to model one more sketch if the students need another example.
4. Have students draw quick sketches from the landscape images you have put out on their tables. Tell students to keep the following ideas in mind while they are sketching:
    a. What would their ideal rural landscape look like?
    b. What characteristics will there be in a rural setting that are not present in a city? (Brainstorm the difference between a rural setting and city setting on paper, and keep this list for a follow-up lesson).
5. Ask students to use their sketches to discuss creating the illusion of space, movement, and balance in a landscape composition: Why is this a successful composition?  Which elements or principles are you using?
6. Discuss the use of different sizes and shapes in landscape composition:  How will you move the viewer’s eyes around the page?  Use projected images to demonstrate this concept.
7. Homework: Students will sketch four different objects or figures in a landscape setting.

Where I Would Be
9th grade student, 2006, pastel and colored chalk.

Day 2
1. Students will look at and discuss their homework sketches with a classmate and determine which sketch they would like to use for their final drawings, which will be completed later in the unit. Students must receive the teacher’s approval before moving on to complete their final drawings.
2. Create a grading rubric for the final drawing as a class. Discuss how students would grade some of the Impressionist landscape images that you used earlier in the lesson.
3. Have students use scrap paper to practice different pastel techniques as you demonstrate. Demonstrate how dark colors cover light colors, how to create different textures, and how to completely color in an object (if students want white on their papers, they should use white pastels).
4. Have students use oil pastels to copy a small portion of one of the images they have been studying.

Day 3
Have student fill out their entire drawings with pastels.

• aerial perspective
• composition
• foreground, middle ground, background
• Impressionism
• movement
• perspective
• texture
• variety

View From the Ground
9th grade student, 2006, pastel.

Evaluation Criteria
• Illusion of depth and space
• Overlapping objects, aerial perspective, and use of foreshortening
• A clear foreground, middle ground, and background
• Use of oil pastels to create texture and completely cover the drawing in color
• Shapes and forms related to a rural landscape are accurately depicted (observation of detail)
• Effort

Lesson Extensions
Have students look at an historical artwork that has a distinct foreground, middle ground, and background. Have students sketch the composition and the shapes in the painting’s layout. Discuss the different types of composition; review the definitions of symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial compositions. Discuss why the artist composed the painting in a certain way. Also refer to other Impressionist landscapes to discuss how the artists created textures in their paintings. Students can use these images to create a new drawing with pastels incorporating the new texture techniques they see in the images. Students may also want to try drawing the same landscape at a different time of day or during a different season.

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